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St. Baldrick's challenge in St. Charles raises funds to fight childhood cancer

St. Patrick's Day tradition inspires many to shave their heads

ST. CHARLES – About 100 people braved the shave in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and its St. Charles challenge. The March 15 fundraiser at St. Charles East High School set out to raise funds and bring awareness to childhood cancer.  

Brooks Nicewarner, a volunteer coordinator for the St. Charles challenge, said seeing the display of support for the cause brings mixed emotions.

The event featured, among other things, raffle drawings, food, music and a ribbon cutting.

Nicewarner, who is a parent, said supporting the St. Baldrick’s Foundation year after year makes sense on many levels.

“No person should have to suffer through cancer, especially children,” Nicewarner said.

Tony Kolek, 6, of St. Charles, walked across the gymnasium to reunite with his family after braving the shave. Tony's mother, Maria Kolek, said her son’s excitement leading up to the St. Charles challenge was clear.

“He said he wanted to do it,” Maria Kolek said. “He signed up about a week ago, and he kept talking about it.”

Tony said he has no regrets about braving the shave.

“It’ll grow back,” he said of his hair.

Willow Olman, 8, of South Elgin, said she took the St. Charles challenge ”because my sister did it four years ago.”

“It didn’t feel so weird,” she said. “It’s spikey.”

Willow's mother, Jennifer Olman, said both of her daughters’ shaved their heads with a common goal.

“When her grandma passed away four years ago, her sister shaved her head, so she’s carrying on the tradition,” she said.

Jennifer Olman said seeing the way the community turned out to support the cause brings a lot of meaning to her.

“It’s grown so much,” she said, referring to the event. “I can’t explain it. It’s personal at this point.”

Charlie Mondi, 9, of Geneva, speaks from experience.

“I got cancer when I was 2 years old,” he said. “We’ve met so many people affected by it, and we wanted to give back. It’s a good way to give back.”

Charlie's father, Matt Mondi, said his personal journey with kidney cancer six years ago motivated him to drop in.

“It’s a great event,” he said. “It’s so touching. We see the whole community here. It’s a good way to give back.”

Kyle Algram, 12, of St. Charles, joined his family after being shorn. He said he took the challenge because “my mom is a teacher and one of her students has leukemia. One of our family friends, Tyler, died at 3 years old from cancer.”

Kyle's mother, Lori Algram, said seeing her son participate is a huge deal.

“I’m proud of what he did,” she said. “He asked a bunch of his friends to form a team to take the challenge. He did it anyway, even though no one else did.”

This year was Kyle’s second time shaving his head in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. He said he won’t miss having hair.

Lori Algram flipped through some camera phone pictures showing her son with hair.

“He’s a swimmer,” she said. “It was long, blond, and soft.”

Kyle said he doesn’t know how his classmates will react when they see his hair, “but they’re going to be touching my head.”

“It feels like Velcro,” he said.

St. Charles East High School principal Jim Richter said he was glad to help host the event this year.

“I know we’ve had students and staff diagnosed with cancer over the years,” he said.

Richter was among those taking the challenge in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“I was waiting for someone to ask me if I would shave my head, and a student did,” he said. “We challenge the school to brave the shave. It’s for a good cause.”

Richter took to the stage to get his hair shaved during the event.

“It feels colder,” he said, referring his head. “It takes me back to when I was 6 or 7 years old when I was getting my hair cut.”

Nicewarner said that while several folks signed up in advance, it inspired some to sign up the day of.

“They get so moved by the event, they want to donate money and get their head shaved,” he said.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation raised more than $50,000 this year by way of the St. Charles fundraiser.

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